Cavities in your teeth are the result of tooth decay, caused by oral bacteria producing acids that attack enamel as they eat lingering sugars and food particles in your mouth. Cavities create perfect hiding spaces for oral bacteria, making it difficult for you to remove them with regular brushing. The longer a cavity goes untreated, the worse it becomes, eventually leading to dental pain and even complete destruction of the tooth. You also are put at risk for infections, which can harm your overall health. At Alexandra Garcia, DDS, MS, we provide fillings to close off cavities and prevent serious issues from occurring.
Amalgam fillings, more commonly known as “silver” fillings, are made up of a mixture of zinc, silver, and tin, held in suspension by mercury. Because of its color, amalgam fillings are often reserved for fillings in your back teeth, where they are less likely to be noticed. Many patients express concerns over the mercury in amalgam fillings, but the amount used is very small, so there is very minimal risk involved.
Despite the fact that amalgam fillings don’t match the natural color of your teeth, they do offer several benefits. Amalgam is exceptionally strong, which is why it is favored for back teeth and can withstand the chewing forces exerted on these teeth. They also can last for several years, upwards of 10 or more, and are the cheapest available option for fillings.
Composite Resin Fillings
Composite resin fillings are made up of fine glass in a resin material. Unlike amalgam fillings, composite resin matches the color of your natural teeth and can be used for filling cavities, as well as repairing minor chips. Because of their ability to blend in with your natural teeth, composite resin is often favored for front teeth. Composite resin is not quite as strong as amalgam, which is why they are rarely used for back teeth (they cannot withstand as much force), although advancements are being made to strengthen the material. Proper care, including avoiding biting down on hard foods or objects, can help lengthen their lifespan.
While composite resin is a more expensive option than amalgam fillings, they are less expensive than dental veneers. They are also a perfect alternative to anyone who has a metal allergy and cannot otherwise have an amalgam filling.
How are Fillings Placed?
Getting your fillings is a fairly straightforward, pain-free procedure, and, in most cases, can be completed in one visit. With amalgam fillings, a local anesthetic can be used, depending on the severity of the cavity. The cavity is cleaned of decay and bacteria, which involves drilling. The amalgam material is packed into the cavity, the excess removed. The material is hardened smoothed.
Composite resin fillings can be placed in one of two ways. The first, direct, method is done fairly similar to the process for amalgam fillings. After the cavity is cleaned, the resin material is placed into the cavity, hardened with a blue light and smoothed. The second method uses an indirect filling. After the cavity is cleaned, a mold is taken of your tooth. A custom filling is created in a lab. A second visit is required to cement the filling in place. No matter how your filling is applied, once in place, it will effectively seal out bacteria and protect your tooth from further damage.
Proper brushing and flossing, along with regular visits to your dentist for cleanings and exams can prevent cavities from occurring. However, in the event of a cavity, fillings offer a quick and painless solution. If you suspect that you have a cavity, call Alexandra Garcia, DDS, MS to schedule your appointment today.